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As we end this Passover/Easter time, I am struck and impressed by the emphasis Christian friends have placed on their tradition’s understanding of Jesus having said, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” Frankly, that resonates with me for two reasons. One, it is good science. Everything we know today about groupthink, war crimes, the authoritarian personality, the origins of genocide and state crimes says to me that most people don’t know what the hell they are doing as citizens, and they end up hurting a lot of people without even knowing it. I am astonished at the collective narcissistic personality disorder of most enemy groups I work with, deeply obsessed with the pain of those they love, and clueless about the rest. So those words resonate: we have to forgive ourselves because we are pretty stupid when it comes to the big crimes we have all …

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 Please find the full article here on the Huffington Post. 

Most people do suffer tragedy, and self-pity is often justified, but it is also very destructive, inducing great anger, depression, and destructive approaches to others. Personally speaking, I simply become a less decent person when all I can think about is my losses and the hurt that was caused me. It is exhausting, time consuming, and embittering.

People are unhappy due to selfishness, according to one of the greatest thinkers on the subject. That flew in the face of every instinct I had my entire life. It was serious people who were sad about the world, it was informed people who worried, cared, talked and ruminated ceaselessly on the worst tragedies, like the Holocaust. They were depressed, but they were the responsible ones on this planet, not the fools saying happy empty things all the time. But here Mill was

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Here is another of my recent Huffington Post articles.

It is my opinion that, on balance, the world is better off with Americans who are less prone to go to war than not. There is simply too much American firepower that can be unleashed that causes unpredictable amounts of damage never anticipated by military planners, and certainly not imagined by thoughtless armchair warriors and lobbyists.

We human beings are not just an amalgam of instincts for fight or flight. We have evolved astonishingly impressive systems of local and global governance, which become more sophisticated and elaborate with every passing year. We are using our powers of reasoning and planning to make a less-violent planet in which human beings are living longer than ever before in history, a sign of our success at the rational and compassionate embrace of human life from infancy to old age.

 

‘Less Violent’ Does

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Here is an excerpt from a recent Huffington Post article I wrote. You can read the full article here

I am not impressed anymore by the emotional bonding and euphoria created by revolutionary crowds. Finished, done, my enthusiasm squashed after years of promising rallies in central squares whose intent and hopes smashed headlong into reality. 

The crowd is not to be trusted. It only knows enthusiasm, not direction, not vision, not a moral compass. We went as civilizations from one kind of crowd delirium to a better one only by building solid, unbreakable emotional and legal bonds between every citizen, no matter how strange or foreign. Bonds that were so strong that most of us now get physically sick just imagining a festival of sadism in the heart of civilized London.

 

Crowds and Revolutions versus the Bonds That Endure 

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Originally published in The Times of Israel

My entire life’s trajectory of peace work was determined at an early age by Hillel’s words and deeds, his compassion and love for all human beings, his commitment to patience with everyone, his passionate search for peace. When he responds to a particularly difficult potential convert who, mockingly or arrogantly, wants the whole Torah while standing on one foot, I watched every word and reaction. This stranger in fact directed his hurtful question at two men, Hillel and Shammai, who had studied and taught day and night their whole lives, examining and teaching thousands of years of tradition. What a hurtful and disrespectful gesture this stranger made! While Shammai violently chased the man away, Hillel responded with the famous dictum, “What is hateful to you, do not do to others,” a searingly simple statement that should be on the walls of the …

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I am completely committed to a safe haven for Jewish people after 1600 years of insecurity and periodic persecution, occasionally unspeakable tragedy due to homelessness and inequality in a world where many religions still are not used to coexistence as equals. That is why I am happy that the West finally recognized its sins decades ago, after the Holocaust and embraced a safe haven for Jewish people. It is great that there is a place to go, automatic citizenship when facing persecution. Every persecuted people should have such a place to go to, such as Palestinians.

 

That is why I fail to understand why there is any need for such a haven to be called a Jewish state. First of all, there is no place in the modern world for a state to be an ethnicity. None of us would accept Russia as a Slavic state, a state for the Slavs, after a thousand years that Jews …

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Here’s an excerpt from my most recent article in the Huffington Post.  You can read the full article here.

A bloodbath of civilians, torture and murder of children, willful starvation of millions, forced displacement of a greater population such as the Middle East has never seen, a global jihadi festival. That is Syria today. In far less horrific environments, the world’s major powers demanded ceasefire for warring parties, but not here.

Why? Conscience demands it, but not geopolitics. War, as has been said so often, is a failure of imagination, imagination of alternatives. The major powers (I will not call them “great”) are backing opposite sides in this war, as is well known, with Russia and Iran the main allies of the Syrian regime, and Saudi Arabia, the government of Iraq, and especially Qatar backing the jihadi influx into Syria. To a tepid degree, the Western countries are backing the revolt and the

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Drowning the Arab Spring in Gulf Oil

by mgopin on October 7, 2013 · 0 comments

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my recent piece on why the Middle East region continues to resist change following the Arab Spring: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=61723

An except:

“The excessive, concentrated wealth that extractions industries created has notoriously depressed the empowerment of millions of people throughout modern history. But considering the unprecedented role of oil as the lifeblood of the global economy, it should come as no surprise that oil politics and rivalries have an especially destructive retardation effect on freedom in the Middle East.

Specifically, the rivalries of Qatar and Saudi Arabia are wreaking havoc on the legitimate rights of the Syrian people to resist the cruelties and tyrannies of the Syrian regime. They do so by allowing their citizens to fund jihadism that has undermined the emergence of a rational Syrian opposition that could be in a position to share power and eventually replace the current regime. The Gulf jihadist proxies know no compromise, no comprehension

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When Catastrophe Strikes – Think Again

by mgopin on July 30, 2013 · 1 comment

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An excerpt from my recent Huffington post blog post about how individuals, nations, and religion cope with catastrophe:

“I have seen my share of tragedy in the work I do, I have worked in conflict zones around the world for much of my life, especially in the Middle East. Nothing ever prepares you for the pain and suffering of parents who lose children to senseless warfare, or children bereft of family. No one prepares you for hundreds of Syrians in a desperate refugee camp coming up to you with agony in their eyes combined with respectful smiles, telling all the horror and not understanding a word of what they are saying. Nothing prepares you for the trauma of leaving them behind, pulling yourself from their arms and hands and fingers and mournful eyes, jumping back behind a barbed wire fence. They are traumatized and mourning, but so are you.

What …

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Political Realism Needs to Discover Nonviolent Social Change

When I start to hear in forums around Washington in the last few months that the people of Syria might have been better off without a violent revolution then we are witnessing a slow learning curve of the political realists. From Afghanistan to Iraq to Syria they are beginning to see the absurdity of embracing guns that give rise to everything they fear the most from the Middle East. The horror of the present makes the courageous crowds in Syria of 2011 something of a wondrous miracle, a proud pluralistic mass movement of social change, without the insanity of ideological extremism.

The lesson is simple. We activists must be much more prepared to massively support every nonviolent turn in social history across the world, but we also must be accompanied by policy makers who at the very least stay out of the …

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